Friday, June 12, 2020

Freeform Friday: The 5th Wave Trilogy (Including The 5th Wave, The Infinite Sea, and The Last Star) - Rick Yancey

Here's another trilogy review, just because we love your guts.  As per usual, don't scroll down to the next book review if you haven't read the previous book.  Ya know, unless you enjoy spoilers.

The 5th Wave is the first book in The 5th Wave Trilogy...

Summary: After the 1st wave, only darkness remains.  After the 2nd, only the lucky escape.  And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive.  After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them.  The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see.  Who have scattered Earth's last survivors.  To stay alone is to stay alive.  Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.  Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother or even saving herself.  But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair. between defiance and surrender, between life and death.  To give up or to get up.  (Summary and image from amazon.com)

My Review:  I read this book in the spring of 2020 in the middle of  the (what is hopefully now over) COVID-19 pandemic.  It was calling to me, but I figured that a book that featured people being killed by a horrible disease, among other things, might feed into my anxiety at the time, so I ignored it.  Instead, I pulled about ten other books off my shelves and spent the next few days trying to find one that spoke to me.  None of them did, so I gave in to what was clearly the inevitable.  It was quite a ride.

The 5th Wave is a splendidly dark and deliciously tense young adult fiction novel that drops the reader right into the middle of a brutal alien apocalypse as seen, first, through the eyes of a teenage girl named Cassie. The story is told from several different perspectives, shifting from one to another and back again at the most inopportune (read: nail-biting) moments.  With the exception of Cassie's character, the reader is left to deduce the identities of the other perspectives over time.  The obscure narration only increased the suspense and I enjoyed the added mystery.  I also thought Cassie's voice had just the right combination of determination and teenage...snark.  Snarkishness? Snarkery?  Whatever.  She wasn't altogether fearless but had some sass in her and I liked it.

The 5th Wave has it's own unique spin, but there were definite moments that reminded me of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Stephanie Meyer's The Host, NBC's Revolution, and AMC's The Walking Dead.  I won't go in to much detail, but it was all in good ways.  The entire plot projected a convincing sense of urgency and a menacing threat that felt all too close for comfort.  There were many times in the story when I had a sense that something wasn't quite right, and a sneaking suspicious of what could happen, but I was never able to put my finger on the specifics.  It was equal parts delightful and infuriating. 

My least favorite aspect of the book was the language, as there was far more swearing than I would  have liked.  However, I have heard there is much less in the movie version which I plan to watch soon.  I'll let you know how I feel about it when I do. (*see update below)

Overall, I thought The 5th Wave was a thrilling, creative take on the alien apocalypse genre and I look forward to reading more of the series.  I already have The Infinite Sea and The Last Star on my shelf, so it shouldn't be long before you get to read those reviews, as well.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  There is a fair amount of swearing (of all varieties) and some violence. Some sensual moments but not anything particularly sexual.  A bare behind is exposed (and admired) but only to administer first aid.

**UPDATE** I just watched the movie version.  I'd call it The 5th Wave: The Lite Edition.  My teenage girls loved it (but they haven't read the book).  As with most movies, there wasn't near as much time to develop the plot, characters, or relationships to the level of the book and because the gore and violence were way down, the Big Evil Aliens didn't seem nearly as threatening as in the book.  Consequently, it lacked the nearly palpable sense of urgency and unease found in the book. On the flip side, there is less swearing in the movie (only handful of instances, including one f-word) compared to the book (where I gave up counting).  The romantic scene in the movie takes place in a different way that was not in the book, but only kissing is shown.   I still liked the movie, because I love seeing a book I've read play out on screen, but it just wasn't at the same level as the book.  
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The Infinite Sea is the second book in The 5th Wave Trilogy...

Summary:  How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible.  Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone.  As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Other's ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven't seen the depths to which the Other's will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.  (Summary and Image from amazon.com)

My Review:  After a disturbing (and explosive) introduction, The Infinite Sea picks up right where The 5th Wave left off.  Cassie, Ben, and the others have escaped Camp Haven, lucky to be alive.  They take refuge in a rat-infested hotel as a winter sets in, but Evan is missing, Ben is near death, and Silencer's are everywhere. Simply put, their prospects are pretty darn bleak.

The book shifts perspectives several times, mostly between Cassie and Ringer, but with a few surprise POVs, as well.  As with the last book, the author doesn't usually identify who is giving their two cents in each section, preferring to let the reader use context to put the pieces together themselves, but I didn't really mind.  Occasionally, a phrase or passage would feel more introspective or existential than was authentic for a particular character or how the average teen would really think.  For example, Ringer undergoes certain changes in her story line that leave her fundamentally altered.  Her written thought process was often hard to follow and, even though I reread certain sections, I couldn't always wrap my brain around what was happening in her story. I got the gist of things, but felt that I was missing deeper meaning.

On the flip side, I did get sucked in to the story rather quickly and couldn't always predict which way things were headed or how certain characters would behave, which left me blindsided and mind blown more than once. The author is oh-so-annoyingly skilled at ending a section/perspective in just the right spot so as to leave you completely hanging, with no choice but to keep reading regardless of the time.  As with most 'middle' books in a trilogy, The Infinite Sea serves more of a bridge between conflict and resolution, that is, it had plenty of action and not a lot of answers, which I expect will come in the next book (they better!). 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  There is violence and just as much, if not more, swearing in this book as in the last.  I realize that everyone's tolerance for profanity is different so I"ll just say that it averaged to about one swear word of the standard variety every two pages, taken from a 30 page sample.  If that fits within your tolerance level, have at it. There are also two somewhat sexual situations.  Both are brief and fairly vague.   
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The Last Star is the third and final book in The 5th Wave Trilogy...

Summary: The enemy is Other.  The enemy is us.  They're down here, they're up there, they're nowhere.  They want the Earth, they want us to have it.  They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.  

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed.  So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget.  And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet.  Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth's remaining survivors will need to decide what's more important: saving themselves...or saving what makes us human.  (Summary and image from amazon.com)

My Review:  The Last Star begins with Ringer having escaped her imprisonment, thanks to the sacrifice of a friend, enhanced with special abilities and hunting someone in particular. Zombie and Dumbo are on their own mission to find Ringer, while Cassie, Evan, Sam, and Megan continue with their plans to blow up the alien mothership.  As with the other books, the story is told from a variety of different perspectives -- namely Cassie, Ringer, Ben, Evan, Sam, and a few others.  

I liked The Last Star more than its immediate predecessor, The Infinite Sea.  I especially enjoyed some of the more surprising elements of the story, including the addition of certain characters and a big twist toward the end that kept things interesting.   It also provided more closure (being the last book, it darn well better!) and I understood more now that Ringer had emerged from her drug-induced rabbit hole.  In fact, the new and arguably-improved Ringer took on a Katniss meets The Terminator persona that added even more butt-kicking potential to her character.  Cassie had her own moments too, though the body count was decidedly lower.  Finally, the culmination of all the action took me by surprise and though I am sure that some people won't like every aspect of the ending, to me it felt right on character.

That having been said, I had a hard time finishing this series. Although there are aspects of The Last Star and the rest of the trilogy that I truly enjoyed, I felt the language was over the top for a YA novel, often excessive, flagrant, and distracting.  It created a bit of a disconnect for me and I just didn't feel 'pulled' to keep reading.  Ultimately, I closed the book underwhelmed and disappointed that I couldn't give my wholehearted YA recommendation to an otherwise entertaining trilogy.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Plenty of language and violence -- though if you are sensitive to either I doubt you've made it this far in the series.  Some brief discussion of sex.  Some removal of clothes with sex implied but not described. One teenage pregnancy (a result of some book #2 shenanigans).

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